Burundi’s political background
Burundi is a small but densely populated landlocked country in the heart of Africa. It ranks among the least-developed countries in the world, ranking 184 out of 188 on the 2015 Human Development Index. Moreover, it has witnessed decades of violent civil conflict between ethnic groups since its independence from Belgium in 1962. The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement ended the large-scale violence of the 1993-2005 Civil War, and hopes were high for multiparty democracy to thrive in Burundi in the aftermath.
However, contested elections in 2015 followed by an attempted coup d’état and a stalemated dialogue process, as well as a severely limited space for public and political debate, is threatening the democratic development of Burundi. As a result strong political distrust and a lack of inclusive dialogue between different groups still pose a significant challenge today. With elections scheduled for 2020, Burundi will have to take major steps towards a peaceful and credible electoral process in order to safeguard its democracy.
NIMD’S APPROACH IN BURUNDI
NIMD, together with its partner organization the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP), aims to contribute to democracy in Burundi through a combination of different interventions:
- Implementing organizational and programmatic capacity strengthening for political parties;
- Providing democracy education through the Burundi Youth Lab, which contributes to building a culture of respect for democratic values on the community level;
- Supporting the participation of women and youth in politics.
- Stimulating and facilitating inter-party dialogue
- Stimulating and facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue at the local level
Participation of women in politics
In all its activities in Burundi, NIMD adheres to its principles of inclusivity and diversity. The participation of women and youth is stimulated and facilitated across all projects. In addition, NIMD and BLTP organize multiparty meetings specifically for women of different political parties. In these meetings, the participants discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by women in politics, and together formulate strategies to improve their levels of participation.
As such, women within the political parties have focused on developing action plans for their participation, and each party now has a national consultant has assisting with the plans’ finalization. During 2019, parties are supported by NIMD to implement these action plans. Involvement of (male) senior party members and committees is essential in this.
This programme is part of the Dialogue for Stability Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Burundi Youth LAB
A key focus for NIMD in Burundi is with young members of the political parties, whose political leadership potential for the future is supported through special activities and trainings. As part of the “Political Leaders for the Future of Burundi” project, a specially designed Youth LAB was opened in Burundi in 2018. The Youth LAB serves to encourage dialogue between young people of all political backgrounds and create a direct link between them and the parties tasked with representing them. Youth LAB is run in partnership between BLTP, NIMD, and Burundi’s Interior Ministry for Patriotic Training and Local Development.
The Burundi Youth Lab is funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
Multistakeholder dialogue at the local level
From 2011 to 2018, NIMD and BLTP ran Democracy Schools in Burundi, where participants internalized democratic values at the lowest community level: that of the “collines”, the Burundian hills. At its peak, NIMD had Democracy Schools in eight of Burundi’s eighteen provinces. Hundreds of young activists, civil servants (including police officers), and party members passed through the doors of NIMD’s Democracy Schools in Burundi, almost a third of whom were women. 52 alumni have so far been elected onto local councils, while 21 have been elected council chiefs.
Exploring national dialogue
The shifting political climate following the 2018 constitutional referendum meant NIMD’s multiparty dialogue sessions on the political and electoral framework have faced a setback.. As the benefits of sustained dialogue offer great promise to politics in Burundi, NIMD is currently in consultation with local leaders, the Burundian government, and international actors to identify how NIMD can facilitate a national multiparty dialogue platform in the near future.
This programme is part of the LEAP4Peace Consortium programme. The Consortium is made up of the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP), the Gender Equality Network Myanmar (GEN), and Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), and is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of its Women, Peace and Security agenda.